PANDORA'S RAZOR

HOPE'S WAR BOOK 2

An engrossing and timely entry in a promising series.

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A woman, accused of terrorism to fit her galactic government’s false narrative, fights to clear her name and keep her young family safe in Strong’s SF thriller sequel.

In Home: Interstellar (2015), 20-something Meriel Hope exposed the galaxywide corruption that enabled a bloody ambush aboard the starship Princess10 years before, which left her, her sister Elizabeth, and other children orphaned and traumatized. Now, in the year 2188, both sisters have found some semblance of peace on a rural planet called Haven. Meriel and her partner, John, are loving parents to her stepdaughters, Sandy and Becky. But then the powers that be—including the government of the United Nations of Earth—launch a media campaign to discredit Meriel, including a faked video of her retracting her accusations. The footage triggers Meriel’s painful flashbacks of her experience on the Princessbut also reignites her determination to set the record straight. Meanwhile, tensions run high between Haven’s farmers and newly arrived space refugees. When several people with scarred stomachs are found dead, Meriel immediately suspects that the camp has been infiltrated by the Archers—a quasi-religious group loyal to the Archtrope, who rules from a Vatican-styled palace on the planet Calliope. While Meriel, John, and the girls explore the glittering space station LeHavre, the Archers and their collaborators launch their final attempt to silence Meriel. The fictional universe that Strong has created for this series feels impressively real; the author has clearly put a lot of work into developing its many facets, from its seedy bars to its spirituality to its fictional historical figures. Indeed, readers may sometimes feel overloaded with worldbuilding information—although a glossary is included. Many of these futuristic elements are fun, but Strong also effectively tackles serious topics, such as media bias and bodily autonomy. There are gory moments, which are rare but memorable, and they’ll stick with readers. Additionally, in a genre full of brooding teen protagonists, Meriel is a refreshingly adult heroine, and John, a doting father to his daughters and supportive partner, stands out for his unconventional masculinity.

An engrossing and timely entry in a promising series.

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-9863599-5-8

Page Count: 502

Publisher: Impulse Fiction

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2021

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  • New York Times Bestseller

DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

THE FURY

More style than substance.

Michaelides takes a literary turn in his latest novel, employing an unreliable narrator, the structure of classical drama, and a self-conscious eye to dismantling the locked-room mystery.

The novel starts off with a murder, and with seven people trapped on an isolated Greek island lashed by a "wild, unpredictable Greek wind." The narrator, soon established as Elliot Chase, then zooms out to address the reader directly, introducing the players—most importantly movie star Lana Farrar. We meet her husband, Jason Miller, her son, Leo, and her friend Kate Crosby, a theater actress. We learn about her rise to fame and her older first husband, Otto Krantz, a Hollywood producer. We learn about Kate’s possibly stalling career and Leo’s plan to apply to acting schools against his mother’s wishes. We learn about Jason’s obsession with guns. And in fragments and shards, we learn about Elliot: his painful childhood; his May–September relationship with an older female writer, now dead; his passion for the theater, where he learned “to change everything about [himself]” to fit in. Though he isn't present in every scene, he conveys each piece of the story leading up to the murder as if he were an omniscient narrator, capable of accessing every character's interior perspective. When he gets to the climax, there is, indeed, a shooting. There is, indeed, a motive. And there is, of course, a twist. The atmosphere of the novel, set mostly on this wild Greek island, echoes strongly the classical tragedies of Greece. The characters are types. The emotions are operatic. And the tragedy, of course, leads us to question the idea of fate. Michaelides seems also to be dipping into the world of Edgar Allan Poe, offering an unreliable narrator who feels more like a literary exercise. As an exploration of genre, it’s really quite fascinating. As a thriller, it’s not particularly surprising.

More style than substance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2024

ISBN: 9781250758989

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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